HOLLYWOOD, Md. (October 18, 2018)—The Town of Leonardtown now has oversight over any future use of about 200 acres of critical area land that was already within town boundaries after the Commissioners of St. Mary's County granted their request to take over stewardship of what is known as growth allocation.
The commissioners granted the town's request at their Tuesday business meeting.
"We believe this was a win-win for everyone," said Town Administrator Laschelle McKay, speaking to the county commissioners. "No land is being requested… this is an economic development tool that has no value until it's applied to a specific project."
There are currently no proposed projects for the 200 acres of critical area land the town requested control over.
Critical area land is land that falls within a 1,000-foot boundary of the watershed; the town is requesting the growth allocation control for land that is mostly along McIntosh Run.
The state's critical area regulations tend to restrict heavily the use of land close to the watershed; it is divided up into areas called Resource Conservation Area, Limited Development Area and Intensely Developed Areas.
The growth allocation allows conservation areas to be developed in a limited fashion and limited development areas to be developed more intensely under critical area restrictions.
The county has more than 1,600 acres of growth allocation available in the critical area throughout St. Mary's, granted by the state legislature in 1988. Before granting Leonardtown's request, they had only used 10 percent of the allocation in 30 years.
McKay said the growth allocation was an important part of town's overall effort to plan its downtown growth.
She estimated that development within the growth allocation could result in $2 million in property taxes to be reaped by the county.
Commissioner Mike Hewitt said the allocation request would actually help preserve rural land, since it was initiated in the town, which is a designated growth area.
"What we've got is development going on in development areas," Hewitt said of the land's potential. "Not growth in the RPD (Rural Preservation District)."
McKay explained that since the growth allocation was not aimed at any specific project, the commissioners could grant the request without a public hearing; County Attorney David Weiskopf agreed.
She did say, though, that any proposed use of the growth allocations would require the town to hold public hearings prior to approval.
The town has zoning authority within town boundaries. The commissioners unanimously approved the allocation.
"Anything good for Leonardtown is good for St. Mary's County," Commissioner Tom Jarboe said.